We’ve reached a landmark anniversary with our plaques. The twentieth was unveiled on 8th March 2018 at Redmaids High School. Actually, so was the nineteenth: between them they made a pigeon pair. The plaques honoured three women, two of whom were sisters, and each major players in the suffrage movement locally. The research was complicated because there were various societies carrying the torch for women’s rights and we are keen to ensure accuracy on plaques.
An additional issue was that the sisters Emily and Elizabeth Sturge were connected with the early days of Redland High School for Girls, which was subsumed into The Red Maids’ School last year to form Redmaids’ High School. The Panel agreed to permit a blue plaque honouring the Sturge sisters on the school in order to maintain a link between the school they founded and its current incarnation. But we insisted on a similar plaque for the old school site on Redland Court Road in the future. This third plaque will thus directly relate the sisters to the actual school building, which is destined to be converted to residential development. All in all, a neat compromise.
The other plaque commemorates Agnes Beddoe, a governor of The Red Maids’ School, and founding member of the Bristol Women’s Suffrage Society. So – three women, two plaques, but one underlying passion: to advance the cause of women, in education and in the right to vote.
It was International Women’s Day but demure students in their cherry-red pleated outfits were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the entire school marched past the plaques and around the grounds. Anything but demure – an inspiring display of celebration for women’s rights: banners, slogans and cheering. Certainly, Agnes, Emily and Elizabeth would have been proud to see their spirited involvement.
The original school was founded in 1634 and is the oldest girls’ school in the country. And we should be proud of our city to have displayed such enlightenment nearly 400 years ago.